Sony A7 III Conclusion
Sony A7 III Conclusion
Sony's "entry-level" full-frame mirrorless camera undergoes its third revision, and by most counts, it's better than ever -- better image quality, better performance, better video, better design and better battery life. At $2,000, however, it's a bit of stretch to call it "entry-level," but that's the barrier of entry for the latest tech when it comes to Sony's full-frame mirrorless series; step-up to the latest-gen A7R, the A9 or the more-specialized A7S model, and you'll easily surpass $2,000 and potentially hit three or four grand. But for serious amateurs, enthusiasts and even professional photographers, the Sony A7 III packs in a ton of improvements across the board at a very reasonable and attainable price point. If you've been holding out on making the jump to the Sony ecosystem, the A7 III just might be the push you've been waiting for.
FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS: 400mm, f/5.6, 1/1000s, ISO 160
Like its predecessor, the Sony A7 III sticks with a 24MP full-frame sensor, which we feel offers a good balance of resolving power and reasonable file sizes. However, both the sensor and the image processor inside the A7 III are new compared to the A7 II, resulting in image quality performance that is outstanding for the class. Low ISO images are packed with crisp, fine detail, and the camera shows better color reproduction as well. High ISO image quality is equally impressive, with improved detail retention, well-controlled noise and excellent print quality performance even as the ISO rises. In addition, dynamic range is significantly improved at all ISOs over its predecessor. In fact, with its multiple image quality advances, the A7 III is currently the highest scoring 24-megapixel full-frame camera tested on DxOMark.com.
FE 24-105mm F4 G OSS: 105mm, f/4, 1/250s, ISO 40,000
Not only is image quality top-notch, but most of the A7 III's performance metrics are equally impressive as well. The camera shares a lot of hardware and features with the high-end A9, including an image sensor that uses a front-end LSI, which among other things, helps increase readout performance. The autofocus system, too, undergoes a lot of improvements, not only gaining way more contrast-detect AF points but also borrowing the impressively-dense 693-point focal-plane phase-detection AF system from the A9, which offers much improved focus tracking capabilities over its predecessor.
So, you have a camera with a fast-reading sensor, lots of processing horsepower and a super-charged AF system. The result is a nimble camera with excellent speed, performance and responsiveness in most respects. Shot-to-shot times are quick and shutter lag is minimal. The A7 III offers above-average burst speeds for a full-frame ILC -- up to 10fps -- and in our lab, the A7 III tested very close to this spec. Buffer depths were great, especially with JPEGs, but the main performance hangup we experienced were buffer clearing times. Despite adding UHS-II support to one of the slots and using a fast UHS-II SD card, buffer clearing was still quite slow, especially with JPEG files. Unlike the A7 Mark II, though, the Mark III does at least let you change some settings and menu options while the buffer is clearing.
Lastly, a note about battery life. The A7 III gains a significant upgrade in battery performance, using the same NP-FZ100 rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack that debuted in the A9. The result is excellent battery life for a mirrorless camera. The A7 III is CIPA-rated for 610 shots/charge with the EVF and 710 shots with the LCD monitor, which is a big improvement over the meager 270/340 shots per charge found on the A7 II.
FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS: 288mm, f/5.6, 1/1000s, ISO 100
If you've used an A7R III, then you'll be very familiar with the design and controls of the A7 III; they are practically identical in appearance, except for the different model name branding. The A7 III is quite similar to the A7 II in terms of grip shape and the general layout of controls, but the A7 III does share the A7R III's updated buttons and dials, including a larger rear control dial, repositioned video record button, a dedicated AF-ON button, and most notably, a handy new joystick control. Like the A7R III, this model gains a touchscreen LCD as well as a larger 0.78x EVF. While the EVF here is larger, the screen inside is a lower resolution than that of the A7R III -- it's the same as on the A7 II. That's not a big deal most of the time, but our field tester did notice some pixelation in the EVF in rare cases. Finally, the A7 III also gains the dual card slots we first saw on the A9, but yet again, we're somewhat disappointed that only one slot is UHS-II-compatible.
Ergonomically, the A7 III feels unsurprisingly similar to the A7R III. As with other Sony full-frame mirrorless bodies, the relatively compact size of the camera might seem cramped for those with larger hands. The smaller body can also feel somewhat unbalanced with big telephoto lenses, though adding a battery grip helps alleviate this. In general, though, the A7 III's built-in grip is contoured, comfortable, and large enough for a secure, balanced hold in most scenarios.
From a build quality standpoint, the A7 III feels just as robust and rugged as its predecessor, if not more so, as construction has been improved compared to the Mark II model. For example, the A7 III has two additional screws in its lens mount compared to the A7 II, for increased durability with large, heavy lenses. Again, Sony touts the A7 III as having a dust- and moisture-resistant construction, but how well it's sealed against the elements and if the A7 III differs in the level or degree of weather-resistance compared to the A7R III or A9 is unclear. We weren't able to subject the A7 III to our weather-sealing test as we did with the A7R III, and while that camera still functioned after a good dousing, it wasn't as sealed as some competitors. Given that Sony uses the same description for weather-sealing on its own product pages for both the A7 III and A7R III, we're going to assume that both cameras are more or less sealed to a similar degree. In the end, the A7 III will likely withstand light inclement weather and dust, just don't push your luck.
Lastly, the Sony A7 III offers a host of top-notch video features, including 4K at both 30p and 24p as well as 1080p up to 120fps for excellent slow-motion capabilities. 4K recording utilizes the full width of the full-frame sensor, using full pixel readout and no pixel binning. Quality-wise, the A7 III is capable of excellent video, especially in 4K, and the ISO performance is impressive. Straight-from-camera video can be a bit contrasty with easily-crushed blacks, but A7 III video supports picture profiles, including S-Log, so you can tweak the look of your video in-camera, or more easily in post. When it comes to video autofocus, the A7 III proves very reliable in that regard with fast and precise performance. Add in some pro-friendly features like zebras, focus peaking, clean HDMI output, a handy Super35 mode, and the A7 III is a feature-rich high-quality video camera.
Sony keeps knocking it out of the park with their full-frame mirrorless cameras. Each generation gets better and better, and with the A7 III, especially, they've created an impressive all-around camera with professional-level image quality, performance and features, while at the same time maintaining a price point that's attainable for a lot of photographers. Sure, if you need more resolution, the A7R is there; and if you need crazy-fast burst speeds, the A9 is waiting. But you'll pay a lot for these upgrades. The Sony A7 III, on the other hand, is all about balance; it's a "Goldilocks" camera in a way. The A7 III offers such a well-balanced mix of performance, quality and features that it suits many different types of photographers and many photographic disciplines, and it's worth the current ~$600 premium over the Mark II model in our books. As we said earlier, if you've been pondering the move to a mirrorless camera, especially full-frame, the Sony A7 III should absolutely be at the top of your list.
As you can guess, the Sony A7 III definitely gets the thumbs-up as a Dave's Pick!
Pros & Cons
- Newly developed full-frame 24MP BSI CMOS sensor offers excellent image quality
- Outstanding high ISO performance and dynamic range
- Class-leading JPEG processing yields very crisp, detailed images
- Improved JPEG colors over its predecessor
- Advanced Hybrid AF system works well
- Good single-shot AF speeds
- Low shutter lag
- Quick cycle times
- Above average burst speeds for its class (10fps, 8fps with "live view")
- Generous buffer depths
- 5-axis optical in-body image stabilization
- Improved build quality over predecessor
- Larger 0.78x EVF than A7 II
- EVF looks fantastic with minimal lag, though some pixelation is visible in rare cases
- Tilting touchscreen monitor
- Excellent 4K video with full pixel readout and no pixel binning across full-width of sensor
- 1920x1080 video up to 120p
- Clean HDMI out
- S-Log 2, S-Log 3 Picture Profile support
- External mic and headphone jacks
- Built-in Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth
- Excellent battery life for a mirrorless camera
- Dual card slots
- USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C terminal
- In-camera charging supported
- Menus can be accessed while buffer is clearing
- Excellent external controls with lots of customization
- Movie record button moved to a better location
- Multi Interface Shoe allows for various smart accessories and adapters
- Buffer clearing can be slow even with fast UHS-II cards
- Only one card slot is UHS-II compatible
- Weather sealing likely not as robust as some competitors
- Still no losslessly compressed RAW option
- Startup time a bit sluggish
- Top shutter speed still 1/8000s with electronic shutter
- No built-in flash
- Dedicated battery charger not included
- No 4K/60p framerate
- Menu system still feels confusing
- No built-in intervalometer & no PlayMemories support to add this and other features
- Small body size can feel unbalanced with larger, telephoto lenses, but battery grip or grip extension is available
- Tilt-only LCD isn't as versatile as a tilt/swivel type